Sometime back I had written about the horrible experience of getting locked out of the house one night during a power outage. But the recent experience of getting ‘Locked in’ was even worse. Our bathroom doors have horizontal bolts inside for locking and handles on both inside and outside the door to open and close them. Once, trying to come out of the bathroom, I pulled the bolt and turned down the handle expecting the door to open. But the door would not open. In panic, I yanked the 35 year old handle and it broke. The stump that was left behind did not have enough leverage to lift the levers. I hollered. I managed to get my husband near the bathroom door and explained the situation. He also tried to operate the outer handle, but could not open the door. As he was getting ready to break open the door, I happened to notice that a corner of the towel hung behind the door had got caught in the bolt. As a result of this, when I pulled the bolt, it had stopped halfway and so the door had remained latched. Blaming myself for not wearing the specs (whoever has heard of going to bathroom with specs on?) and the lack of light (Is there a rule against switching on the light in the bathroom?), I removed the corner of the towel, pulled the latch fully and the door opened!
But, this was not the worst case of ‘Locked in’ for me. We were staying on the ground floor of a house in South Extension, New Delhi, with the owners occupying the first floor. Being staunch tam brahms, they did not believe in attached bathrooms. Instead, there was a separate room for bathing and a toilet next to it in the rear courtyard. Since the bathing room was very small, we used to fetch hot water for bath from a copper boiler kept in the yard. Our yard was separated from their yard by means of a wall with a door which I used to keep locked usually. There was an open cement tank filled with water accessible from both the yards. On the said day, I was giving the weekly oil bath to my 4 year old daughter. A south Indian oil bath is quite a ritual. The body and the hair are generously oiled, allowed to soak for some time and washed off with a paste of soap nut powder, with the whole process needing 4-5 buckets of hot water. My two year old son who was playing inside the house, strolled down to the back yard and bolted the bathroom door from outside!. I tried to explain to him through the small window how he should open the bolt, but it had no effect on him. He looked up at me with a sweet smile and retired into the house sagaciously.
I still needed a couple more buckets of hot water to complete my daughter’s oil bath. The bathroom was fogging up. We both were sweating. In the small slit of the window I yelled ‘Maami, Maami’for my land lady. But the poor lady was hard of hearing. After an eon, she came down as she felt she heard a faint cry. When I explained to her the situation, she with her 9 yard saree, climbed over the open water tank, came into our yard and released me. When the same 2 year old son became a 4 year old, he had locked himself up in a first floor bathroom in Dhaula Kuan quarters. We had to get the MES people (Military Engineering Service) to climb from outside, let themselves into the bathroom through the ventilator and open the lock from inside.
So, I just cannot decide which is worse- to be ‘locked in’ or to be ‘locked out’. It is a choice between Claustrophobia and the feeling of being abandoned!